The Amazing Practice Magnifier, Part 3

practicing Mar 28, 2016

It’s one thing to talk about focus, and another thing entirely to find it. You can practice with focus and perform with focus, but what if you don’t really have something specific to focus on? How long can you create focus for yourself?

Focus, motivation, drive, inspiration. They are all slightly different manifestations of the same important element in music study: energy.

That’s Carla’s problem. She started the harp with a seemingly endless supply of energy. She bought books, listened to recordings, watched videos and went to seminars. She discovered that there is a wealth of information out there about how to learn the harp and she became an avid learner.

Until she came to an unexpected roadblock and her energy seemed to run out.

She has almost decided to give up the harp. It’s not just that it’s more difficult than she thought; it also feels pretty lonely. But there is hope for Carla, and for others like her, and it’s closer than she thinks.

This blog post is the third in a three-part series of case studies that will show you how to bring more focus – and more harp happiness – into your practice and playing every day.

In the first post, Agatha learned how to stay more focused during her practice time and reduce the mental clutter that was preventing her from doing her best work.

Last week, Betty Lou discovered how to eliminate excess repetition and be sure that her practice will lead her to more musical and more confident performances.

A reminder: these scenarios are not related to particular harp students. They are composite reflections of problems encountered by many music students of all instruments and levels of accomplishment. The names used are for illustration purposes only.

Case Study #3: Carla

When Carla began to lose her focus and her energy, her first reaction was to double down. She practiced twice as hard, bought more music, watched more YouTube videos. But the motivation from these was short-lived. She doesn’t want to quit the harp, but she is tired of feeling like she’s all alone.

Carla, let me help you find the energy you need.

Musical energy is much like music itself in that it is transmitted between people. When we try to sustain our energy for playing, practicing and performing all by ourselves, we are merely using up our own reserves. Without contact with other musicians (and for us harpists, particularly other harpists), we soon run out of the drive to push through the daily challenges of practicing and playing.

But when we are in contact with others, with musical mentors and colleagues, the energy transfers between us and inspires and motivates us all.

One source of musical energy is in the interaction between teacher and student. When we take lessons, our teacher provides us with regular feedback, helps us create short and long term goals, and checks our progress along the way. We not only learn from our teachers, but regular lessons provide us with deadlines to meet and hold us accountable for our progress. (Carla – do you take regular lessons?)

We find additional energy in listening to or watching the performances of others. Their achievements can help to motivate us. If you’ve ever come away from a concert feeling ready to sit down and start practicing, you have experienced this phenomenon.

Lastly, we find energy in our interactions with musical friends and colleagues. Being part of a musical community is one of the biggest factors in the growth of any musician, no matter her age or level of playing. And fortunately, we have the technology to be part of a virtual community, so that our location doesn’t have to limit our opportunities.

So Carla, you can refresh your spirit and replenish the energy and drive you have lost with three easy steps:

  1. Be sure you are taking regular lessons. If there is no teacher in your area, there are plenty of choices for online study.
  2. Continue to listen to others. There are so many styles of playing, so many different types of music and so many wonderful performers, you will find lots of inspiration.
  3. Join a musical community. Perhaps you could join an ensemble or have friends come over to play music together. And there are lots of generous and welcoming online communities as well.
So Carla, don’t give up - just don’t go it alone!

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